remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Marsen Jules – Les Fleurs – City Centre Offices – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on May 21, 2006

Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs

Artist: Marsen Jules

Title: Les Fleurs

Label: City Centre Offices

Cat No.: TOWERBLOCKCD034

Format: CD

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and after a year of having to deal with no new music from Marsen Jules, I can see how that might be the case. I’m simply in awe of this work and yet again Martin has produced an album of such consummate skill and beauty that to find any fault with it would be a massive challenge.

Simply put this is some of the finest ambient music around and you’ll be hard-pushed to find anything that’s this striking or this beautiful in the months to come.

Martin’s blend of classical, organic and electronic music is marvellous and there’s an easiness and flowing grace that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. From track to track we are treated to a divine collection of instrumental works that owe as much to composers like Satie as they to do to modern musicians such as Eno. The smallest snippet of sound is enough for Juhls to create nothing less than a symphony and it’s this spare use of musical elements that, once again, stands out from the crowd.

Arrangements on all of the tracks are airy, light and remarkably mature sounding and his use of space as well as sound is the real key to the atmosphere he creates – for every note on most tracks there is a corresponding space in time that works in harmony with it. That said, there are lush textural tracks as well and they still have the power to recall Gas at his absolute finest. Swathes of sound drenched in reverb serve to hypnotise and entrance the listener and when combined with classical string swells it becomes an incredibly emotional and melancholy piece of work.

As ever with this style of music it’s incredibly hard to break it down into its constituent parts as that would shatter the overall balance of the album. Instead I’ll just mention ‘Ceillet Sauvage’ as being a particular standout track with its minimal use of marimba and vibraphone proving that less is most definitely more.

Once more, Martin Juhls has delivered a superb album and his success this year is assured. I know that this will be an album of the year for me for 2006, just as ‘Herbstlaub’ was for 2005. All we can do is hope that he continues this amazing run of stunning music. Quite simply an incredible piece of work.

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Orla Wren – Butterfly Wings Make – Expanding – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on May 21, 2006

Expanding has delivered two superb albums so far this year, from Miller + Fiam and Modern Institute. Now we are treated to a third release from the little known Orla Wren with the evocative title ‘Butterfly Wings Make’.

It’s a gentle name for a thoroughly beautiful album and is clearly designed to conjure images of nature and fragility. This it does successfully and is accompanied by a series of tracks that are at once familiar sounding, yet invigorating at the same time.

The ill-named sub-genre of ‘Folktronica’ is a much maligned beast at the moment and the waters are brimming with me-too and sound-alike work by a vast number of artists. It’s heartening, then, to hear a genuinely heartfelt album that’s obviously been put together with a great deal of love and attention.

Orla’s sound is organic, yes, but the more electronic side of his sound shines through like a beacon and whilst there are sampled instruments you’re as likely to hear a synthetic tone or a static glitch as well.

‘Closure’ – a superb name for an opening track – kicks things off with a gentle, lilting piano and some delightful, light and very airy electronic percussion sounds. Add to that a hypnotic guitar and spacious strings and you have the kind of intro that gives you a good idea of what’s to follow. And right up to the final moments of ‘Sea Grass’ you’re treated to a work of manifold pleasures and hidden secrets.

It’s the sense of melody that really makes this album and Orla is clearly as at home with marimba sounds and exotic percussion as he is with more traditional sounding instruments. The blend of atmospheres is truly lovely and ranges from Folk influences right through to the work of Murcof or Digitonal. There’s clearly a classical leaning here but it’s nowhere near as overt as the aforementioned artists.

There’s also a lightly glitchy sound that recalls the work of labels such as 12k or Plop and this, combined with the more melodic elements provides a well-rounded experience with all bases covered. It never spreads itself too thinly though and manages to balance all of these influences with style and ease, even down to the inclusion of background field recordings which serve to highlight the natural feel of the album.

This is the type of music that will accompany your summer with ease. Refreshing, mellow, sunny-sounding and with just the right level of sweetness but enough bite to keep you coming back for more.

Expanding once again hit the right spot with another wonderful release.

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